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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

by Erik Larson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,2372492,333 (4.14)310
The #1 New York Times best-selling author of In the Garden of Beasts presents a 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania that discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.… (more)
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English (246)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (248)
Showing 1-5 of 246 (next | show all)
History is a living art, packed with drama and emotion and animation, in the hands of Erik Larson. While reading, I felt all the excitement of the ocean cruisers, all their nagging awareness of the dangerous possibility, all their human tendency to believe that such a danger was beyond the scope of possibility, and all their disbelief when the unthinkable became real. I watched the maneuverings of the U-20 submarine as it stalked its victims all over the seas, and marveled at the mass of coincidences that were needed to make the sinking of the Lusitania a reality. Alter one small part of this story, the timing of the departure, the speed maintained, even the endurance of the fog, and the Lusitania sails into the Liverpool docks instead of into the history books.

Perhaps it takes a strong, callous heart to persevere in war, but there was a kind of cold-blooded heartlessness in so many of these people that it made me cringe. Mr. Churchill, for whom I have always had a great degree of respect, may well have set up the scenario that led to this disaster in order to help propel the United States into the war. Sometimes to do nothing is to do something major. Of course, he seems like a pussycat next to the German u-boat commander who takes such obvious joy in torpedoing merchant ships so that he can add to the “tonnage” of his kill count. Perhaps they should have kept the count in lives; It might have made for a better understanding of the job he was doing.

Larson follows both Turner, the captain of the Lusitania, and Schwieger, the admiral of the u-boat, along with a number of the passengers aboard the ship. He acquaints us with them on a very individual level, giving the horror the human face that it deserves. In any tragedy that costs such a death toll, it is the details of the lives that finally break your heart. It is the realization that these people had dreams and wishes, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, lovers; that they will be missed and mourned each individually, that forces you to see that they are no different than you.

I love history. No one can make up stories any better than the ones that have actually occurred and affected the lives of so many. And, in the end, that is what history is--not the story of lands, or the story of things, but the story of people, individuals, great and small, who have struggled and lived and died and left a moment of significance behind. The loss of the Lusitania was not the loss of a great ship, a mammoth of the sea, it was really the loss of 1000 lives, some never lived, and all cut short by the insanity of a conflict that erupted over imperialism and greed, despite being blamed upon the death of an archduke in Sarajevo.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
this an accurate, precise story of the sinking of the Luisitania and interwoven history the surrounds this event. I was more emmersed in reading this tragic event once I go through the first few chapters of details about the boats and mechanics. the lives lost and the carnage of the wreck after the sinking is horrendous. and you couldn't really put the book down at that time , really enjoyed this book , highly recommend it. ( )
  mgallantfnp | May 26, 2022 |
On May 7, 1915, the luxury liner Lusitania enter waters off the coast of Ireland on its voyage from New York to Liverpool. As it closed in on the end of its voyage, it crossed the path of German submarine, U-20. One torpedo fired by U-20 led to the liner sinking very quickly within sight of land throwing the unprepared crew and passengers into the cold but calm waters of St. George's Channel.

Larson crafted a wonderful book that examines the diaries, memoirs, ship logs including U-20's, newspaper stories of the time, Admiralty records, and other books about the sinking. There was an inquiry almost immediately called by the Admiralty that was to find out what went wrong but really focused on blaming the liner's captain.

Because there were many Americans among the passengers, Larson examines why the USA didn't immediately enter the war even though it had warned Germany not to attack passenger vessels that may be carrying US citizens. During this period of the war, President Wilson was in personal crises having lost his first wife and then falling in love with a woman who was reluctant to marry the president which caused him to be less focused on the war and the increasing deadly submarine war part of it. We also learn about Room 40 which was an Allied code breaking team which had broken German navy codes and knew where German subs including U-20 were by the many messages they sent to headquarters. Afraid that by revealing too much information they learned through Room 40 would tip off the Germans that their codes had been cracked, they never told the Lusitania that it was in danger and didn't send out naval support as it approached the Irish coast. This reminds one of the Ultra story of WWII. Winston Churchill is a significant player in this part of story.

Through Larson's amazing detail research we learn a great deal about many of the passengers and crew of the liner and what happened to them that deadly sunny afternoon. ( )
  lamour | Apr 29, 2022 |
This was a pretty interesting book. I knew about the Lusitania, but knew no details at all. I think the author did a good job filling in the facts and dramatizing it using the journals of the survivors, and other documents of the time. ( )
  Wren73 | Mar 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 246 (next | show all)
If creating “an experience” is Larson’s primary goal, then “Dead Wake” largely succeeds. There are brisk cameos by Churchill and Woodrow Wilson, desperate flurries of wireless messages and telegrams, quick flashes to London and Berlin. These passages have a crackling, propulsive energy that most other books about the Lusitania — often written for disaster buffs or steampunk aficionados — sorely lack.
added by amarie | editThe New York Times, Hampton Sides (pay site) (Mar 5, 2015)
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erik Larsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bouffartigue, Paul-SimonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brick, ScottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The Captains are to remember that, whilst they are expected to use every diligence to secure a speedy voyage, they must run no risk which by any possibility might result in accident to their ships. They will ever bear in mind that the safety of the lives and property entrusted to their care is the ruling principle which should govern them in the navigation of their ships, and no supposed gain in expedition, or saving of time on the voyage, is to be purchased at the risk of accident.

"Rules to Be Observed in the Company's Service,"
The Cunard Steam-Ship Company Limited, March 1913
The first consideration is the safety of the U-boat.

ADM. REINHARD SCHEER
Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War, 1919
Dedication
For Chris, Kristen, Lauren, and Erin
(and Molly and Ralphie, absent, but not forgotten)
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On the night of May 6, 1915, as his ship approached the coast of Ireland, Capt. William Thomas Turner left the bridge and made his way to the first-class lounge, where passengers were taking part in a concert and talent show, a customary feature of Cunard crossings.
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The #1 New York Times best-selling author of In the Garden of Beasts presents a 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania that discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.

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